At the 2018 FILO (First In, Last Out) church tech-arts conference Rusty Anderson taught a break-out session on “Live video for worship.” Rusty has served in church video production for 15 years. He toured with Chris Tomlin, served as the video director for the Passion Conferences and has led the video team at Passion City Church.
What follows are my own notes from Rusty’s session. I hope I did a satisfactory job recording his major points and I hope they help you as you endeavour to become a better live video director at your church.
• Different delivery methods require different live capture priorities. Imag (Image Magnification) tends to warrant tighter field of view shots as the goal is to project those images to the same room and audience the presenter is in and speaking to. Thus, showing the audience what they cannot see (well) with the naked eye is important. Broadcast (streaming, video on demand) requires us to show the room. The congregation is one the cast members in the story we are attempting to tell as video directors. Even the person seated in the front row of an auditorium may not fully be aware of what is going on behind them in the room. Tell that part of the story as well.
• Rule of thirds applies primarily to slash shots. Front on tight-follow / loose-follow shots should be center-balanced unless the progression of shots in the line cut requires you to create negative space in framing the front-on shot, leading into or out of an off-angle shot adhering the rule of thirds.
• Avoid “shooting the short side” (framing off angle tighter field of view shots where the talent has more negative space behind them than in front of them) as these shots communicate to the audience uncertainty and tension.
• Begin a scene by establishing the room, then graduate into shots with increasing tighter fields of view.
• Once established and tight, use a mixture of tight and wide field of views.
• Insert wider shots to capture important stage lighting changes.
• For broadcast, keep the subject’s eyes on the top Rule-of-Thirds horizontal line regardless of what the field of view is (note: Rusty and I would respectfully disagree on this. For more information why, see the article, “Shot Composition“).
• Physically walk the room during a service to experience what the audience in the house is actually seeing & hearing.
• In pre-production, listen to the music the worship team will perform. Visualize it. What are the various parts of the song? What emotions do you feel when hearing the song? What visuals can you use to compliment those emotions.
• Pace, sometimes slower is very appropriate. You probably do not need to change a shot that is working as often as you may think.
• When a worship leader adlibs going “off script” from the song’s (or ProPresenter’s) lyrics use tighter field of view shots because the audience will be helped by seeing the worship leader’s face.
• How do you deal with songs that have very long intros? Well composed camera shots will hold-up and keep the audience’s interest better than poorly composed shots during long intros. Other factors that help are a good set or lighting design, lateral (dolly) camera motion, and slow-creep zooms.
• Dissolve less, if dissolving use the auto transition feature in the switcher set to 15-20 frames. Do not use the T-bar.
• Dissolve duration may also be impacted by a handheld operator’s jerkiness. It’s best not to dissolve if the operator cannot hold a shake-free framing. Cut in that case instead.
• Be a team.
• Don’t be an island.
• Communicate clearly.
• Lead, don’t get frustrated by your team.
• Offer ideas/suggestions to operators. Walk the stage in rehearsal or camera meetings to suggest shots.
• Record your switcher’s multi-viewer with comms channel & program audio. Debrief the multi-viewer with your team. Set up a private web link for team post mortem review distribution.
• Be distraction free.
• Shaky cameras can be mitigated with “sub buddies” (foam and wood squares to go under a tripod’s feet) as well as good quality tripods.
• Tally lights and clear commands are helpful to camera operators. Consider preview-bus “green tally” as well as on-air red tally.
• Support the pastor by considering the message. Let the content dictate your cut.
• Camera placement is not written in cement. Consider moving your cameras. Mix it up.
• “Maximize depth of field” (note: I think the point he was trying to make is that narrow or shallow depth of field can be a useful tool).
• “Movement is magic.” Consider dollies or a motorized slider
Tom D’Angelo has worked in television production and AVL corporate theater for nearly four decades. He is Emmy Award nominated (Best Director category, Mid-Atlantic) and has been part of various teams nominated or winning national Emmys. As the Media Director at a megachurch in the 1980’s he developed a love for the Church and church performing and technical artists.